Woke up this morning
Stumbled out of bed
Tried to make a 48 bit HDR scan
But my scanner would not be led
Tried to fire up Vuescan
Gave Dimage Scan a chance
But even good ol’ Silverfast
Couldn’t make that scanner dance
When halfway through my scan
The thread it seems to lose
Yeah, I’m stuck down here in Memphis*
With the Failing Scanner Blues
* well ok, Lugano, but that’s not very Blues.
Yep, my 13 year old Minolta Dimage Scan MultiPro has started having senior moments. Part way through a scan, or even a preview, it just gives up and decides it’s done quite enough. The software’s left in limbo. Vuescan looks round in confusion, Silverfast, naturally, locks up, and Dimage Scan wonders why the hell I’ve woken it up after a 5 year nap.
This isn’t good news. Received knowledge over at the MultiPro Yahoo Group is that it is probably a symptom of a failing Firewire controller, apparently a known ageing issue with these scanners. And it probably can’t be fixed. Apparently a company in Germany called RTC Solutions can sometimes fix Konica Minolta scanners, but they’re not answering my email. Probably on holiday. Or stuck at the Gotthard Tunnel with most of Germany.
The MultiPro also has a SCSI interface, which apparently is much more robust. I believe I last used it around 2005, which would have been when my last SCSI-equipped Mac caught fire just after I’d sold it. One can in theory use a Firewire to SCSI converter, but these went out of production some 4 years ago, and sell on eBay for $Stupid. And of course Apple have killed off Firewire as well, so that’s not much of a long term solution. Possibly I could find a Firewire PCIe card which might work in my Mac Pro, and which might then hook up to the scanner, but even then, since I have to use an old version of Silverfast running on a semi-retired laptop (version 8 doesn’t support the MultiPro), if all that unlikely chain worked, I’d still lose my Silverfast workflow. Vuescan would work, but well, it’s not really my first choice.
Things are looking grim on the Medium Format film-scanning front (and not much better on 35mm). There were basically 3 good MF film scanners all launched around 2000: The Polaroid 120 (and Microtek clone), the Nikon Coolscan 8000/9000 and the Minolta MultiPro. There is some debate over which of the Coolscan 9000 and the MultiPro is better, but there’s not a lot in it. They’re both excellent. However, the Multipro is half the size & weight of the Nikon, and scans XPan format at 4800dpi rather than 4000dpi. For general MF use, however, the Nikon offers 4000dpi over the Minolta’s 3200. Of course all of these are out of production, and thanks to Sony’s acquisition of Konica Minolta’s photographic activities, even the statutory period for spares and servicing was ignored.
Today, there are actually two MF scanners available new. The Reflecta MF5000 (and several clones with different labels, such as Pacific Imaging), which isn’t terribly exciting, and the Plustek 120, which in theory is interesting, but has received mixed reviews, to put it politely. In any case, even a glitch-free Plustek 120 would seem to be inferior to the Minolta MultiPro, a 15-year old design! And you can even find new copies of the Nikon Coolscan 9000, if you’ve got more money than sense.
And of course there are the outrageously expensive Hasselblad Flextight X5 & X1. Sadly I have no grandmothers left to sell. And anyway, they’re don’t even have dust removal - and, reportedly, the MultiPro delivers results almost as good.
MultiPros and Coolscans on eBay fetch prices way in excess of their original retail, and who knows how much life they have in them ? I can hardly complain about my Minolta, it has given over a decade of faithful service, which isn’t bad for an electro-optical-mechanical device.
So I’m left looking at a set of unattractive options: try to patch up the Minolta for a while yet; buy a modern but expensive, slow and less performant Plustek scanner; try to find a secondhand replacement Minolta or Nikon which doesn’t require a kidney to raise the funds. Or rent a Hasselbad X5, 250km away in Zürich, every now and again, for CHF 300 / hour. Or give up on film.
Meanwhile, while I’ve been writing this, the MultiPro has just managed to get from one end of a scan to another without losing the plot, and delivered this:
Really clutching at straws, I’ve ordered a new Firewire 400 cable (yes, even these are special order now, abet $0.50 from the USA). If that fixes it, I’ll be on the phone to the Vatican.